Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
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What is GRE?
Students planning to pursue Masters of Science, commonly known as MS, take the GRE - Graduate Record Examination.
Post July 2011, the GRE pattern has changed and the exam is no longer a computer adaptive test but the performance in the given section will determine the level of the next section.
New GRE has 2 sections for GRE Verbal and Quantitative. Each section is considered as one stage. First Section is Stage 1 (or called as Routing Stage). Depending on your performance, the test taker is routed to one of several alternative second-stage tests, each of which consists of a fixed set of questions and differs on average difficulty.
If you get high score in Section 1, your entire set of questions in Section 2 will be under Difficult (or very difficult) category. This makes the New GRE difficult to crack.
1. You get Quant section first. You solve all the questions which will be a mixture of easy, moderate and difficult. Assuming you did really well, your next section, say Verbal, will be more difficult. If you perform badly, your next section will again be easy.
2. Moderately difficult level of questions will be given to you in Section 1. Based on your performance, you will get one of Easy, Moderate and Difficult in section 2.
- Score 165 in Section 1 then you will be routed to Difficult Level in Section 2.
- If you score 135 then you will be routed to Easy Stage 2.
Another variation can be
- Stage 1: Moderately Difficult
- Stage 2: Very Easy, Easy, Moderate, Difficult and Very Difficult
You should solve the first few questions (the first 8-9 questions) taking as much time as required and get them right. This is not true. It depends on the level of questions. You should not blindly follow this logic and lose too much time so that you do not have enough time in the end to solve the remaining questions which may turn out to be easier. It's “suicide”.
You SHOULD attempt all the questions even though you might have to mark an answer without spending enough time on it because an incomplete paper can cost you a loss of significant points.
How many types of GRE’s are there?
GRE are of two types:
1. GRE General Test: The General Test takes into account verbal reasoning, quantitative ability, and analytical writing skills. Almost all the universities accept the General test score and usually everyone opts for this test. It takes place round the year and you can choose your date according to your convenience.
2. GRE Subject Test: The Subject Test measures the achievement in a particular subject area or extensive background in that discipline. These tests are in the following areas: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Literature (English), Physics and Psychology. It is conducted on a fixed date for everyone, more on the terms of an entrance exam. Mostly none of the engineers go for this.
Structure of the GRE :
The computer-based General Test is composed of 3 sections:
- Verbal Reasoning (English)
- Quantitative Reasoning (Math)
- Analytical Writing sections (Essays)
Test Pattern :
Revised Pattern & Content
Changes from Previous Pattern
|Quantitative||- Data Sufficiency
- Data Interpretation & Statistics
- Problem Solving
- 2 Sections (20 Q's/35 Minutes per section)
|- Calculator Allowed
- No Choice for Problem Solving
- Statistics part of new pattern
- 2 Sections instead of 1 but less time
|Verbal||- Reading Comprehension
- Sentence Correction
- 2 Sections (20 Q's/30 Minutes per section)
|- More stress on Comprehension and Less on Etymology
- 2 Sections instead of 1
- Less Questions but more time as it involves RC
|AWA||- Issue essay: 30 minutes*
- Argument Essay: 30 Minutes**
|Time Reduced for Issue Essay by 15 minutes|
|Test Format||- No Computer Adaptive Test
- Skipping Questions Permitted
|- Skipping questions are NOW ALLOWED
- Scores not based on solving the first few questions correctly
|Scoring Scale||130 - 170 with 1 point Increment.||Earlier it was 200 - 800 with 10 point increment|
|Score reporting to University||5 Years Validity||No change|
* For the Issue task, two essay topics will be presented and you will choose one. In this type of essay, you usually agree and disagree with the author. There is no need to take a stand. You can state the pros and cons of the topic.
** The Argument task does not present a choice of topics; instead, one topic will be presented. In this type of essay, you should disagree with the author. As the name suggests, you should argue with the author’s views.
After all the verbal and quant sections, a research section follows. This section is like essay writing on a topic presented to you. However, it is NOT evaluated towards the final score. Hence, a lot of people skip this section and proceed to the last part of checking their score.
Note: The AWA section is always first, followed by two Verbal sections and two Quantitative sections, in any order. Basically, you will have two verbal sections and two quantitative sections and will contribute towards your final score. You will not be informed prior or during the exam about which section will be taken into account and hence you must give cent percent effort in all the sections.
Even though the exam pattern has changed, most part of the preparation remains the same. Since Antonyms and Analogy aren't a part of the new syllabus, learning/memorising the word is NO MORE important. Inorder to crack the GRE it is advisable to practice vocabulary by referring to the GRE word list as sections like GRE sentence completion demand you to be spontaneous in your verbal section.
The GRE study plan varies with each and every individual. But in general, you need around 50 days, give or take a few. As per the old pattern it starts with learning GRE words with the help of vocabulary 'flashcards' . If you're pretty consistent with reading newspapers, you definitely have an edge, considering you’ve probably come across a handful of vocabulary words already.
In short, be quick with the meanings and its usage of the words.
A Month or so to the GRE..
Once you are done with a considerable number of words, start solving the BigBook. Get the book from one of your friends who have already taken the GRE. If you still don't get it, download it from the internet. It is advisable to solve the big book on the screen as you have to take the exam on the computer. It makes you familiar with it.
It has got two sample papers in every mock test which follows the oldest exam pattern of GRE (38 questions in 30 mins for verbal; 30 questions in 30 mins for quant). Try solving the paper with the old pattern (rather than adding your own touch-ups and increasing time or other such weird experiments). This will definitely improve your speed. Overall, there are 27 tests (54 papers). Try solving atleast 20 papers before you get bored (can’t blame you for that). Give a week to the GRE BigBook and solve minimum 2 sample tests a day. Of course, more wouldn’t hurt.
Along with the BigBook, solve GRE BARRONS. It's one of the best books for GRE & teaches you a lot. Solve the quant section completely. It's fun to solve and is useful. This book will help you improve your speed for the GRE Quantitative section. It has 5 test papers with the new test pattern. Solve them gradually.
Another fortnight to go..
In the last 20-22 days, start taking the online practice test for GRE. There are hundreds of free online tests if you search on the internet and one can't solve them all. Hence, there are some standard mock tests that one needs to solve. Some of them are listed below.
- Kaplan GRE Practice Test (very important)
- PowerPrep GRE (GRE level)
- Princeton GRE Test
- Cambridge GRE TestPrep
Kaplan GRE Practice Test: One of the most important tests - it has 6 sample tests each for verbal and quant and 3 Full Length GRE Test. Kaplan Quant is really important and helpful, so be serious with it. Make sure you evaluate all your tests properly. With these mock GRE scores, use the Grad School Finder and see where you stand. Repeat the process with different scores. Taking a test is not a big deal; learning from it is definitely one.
PowerPrep GRE: You can download the PowerPrep software which will be of a great help in your GRE preperation.
Princeton GRE Test: Solve Princeton simultaneously along with Kaplan. Finish it off in a week or 10 days.
Cambridge GRE TestPrep: It's an elementary test and it helps you get acquainted with the adaptive exams on the screen. You need a maximum of two days.
Study for your AWA (essay) 5-8 days prior to "the" day (though we suggest that reading and solving essays right from day one can help you get a very high score) Read some essays from Barron’s, the method to write it and take any topic from these tests and write it down. Exchange the essays amongst your friends so you'll get an idea how well they write. Solve the PowerPrep tests completely along with the essays to get an idea of your patience level. Take our word, full test is quite long!
While many students believe that AWA does not play a vital role in the admissions, here's a good read on "Why AWA Should Not Be Ignored?"
Oh! Almost forgot about Quant..
Quant at the first glance might seem simple but it isn’t so simple as to be neglected. Engineers can give less time for math as they’ll be familiar with many of the topics, but remember that the split score matters a lot, so a minimum of 750 (old pattern) or 160 (new pattern) is like a 'must' for engineers. The rest are advised to solve as many questions as they can. Solve some renowned professors notes, Kaplan book (not the adaptive computer exam) and any other notes as and when you get time during your preparation.
It definitely varies with every student on how they got about Quant, but the one mentioned above is how it is generally followed.
- Flash cards (GRE words) needs to be revised thoroughly.
- Revising the Quant formulae.
- Read Newspapers for an hour everyday to stay in touch with long Reading Comprehensions (RC).
- Keep your cool. It’s a test of nerves more than anything.
When should I take the GRE?
GRE takes place round the year. It is not like any other exam where the dates will be announced in the newspaper or any official website. So, anytime you feel you are in a position to go and take your best shot, GO FOR IT.
GENERALLY, engineering students prefer to take GRE in their third year either in March or August. No superstitious connections but some logical reason behind it. GRE is an exam which requires you to be tension-free and relaxed. Most engineers remain free during these two months as they aren’t occupied with any work like exams, submissions, etc. There are a few advantages of choosing March over August as enumerated below :
Reasons to choose March as the GRE month:
- March is the ideal time to take GRE because you get one more chance to take the exam in August if suppose you don’t score well in the March attempt.
- Giving GRE in March won’t clash your deadlines with final year project, placements (some companies do come in August-September) and most importantly you get more time for your Application Process for USA.
- You can take TOEFL without any pressure, if your GRE is over in March.
- If you're planning to appear for MBA entrance exams as well, you get sufficient time.
- You might have to bunk a lot of lectures for the GRE preparation. This can seriously affect recommendations from your teachers as attendance is the prime parameter. Giving the exam in August leaves you with very less time to ‘butter’ them and make things turn your way.
Problems with choosing a date..
Often, the slots are already full and you don’t get your desired date. So, book your date well in advance. Some prefer to wait till the last minute, and once they are confident about their preparation, they start searching for the nearest available date. This can be a problem as you might not get a single date and have to wait for a long time which in turn affects your preparation leading to a BAD day.
Note: Please choose your date wisely and carefully. Although you're allowed to postpone the date, you will only be making the ETS richer by $50 or an additional $190 if you reschedule it within 3 days of the exam.
Should I choose end of the month as my GRE day as questions will be repeated?
It’s a big misconception amongst a lot of students. Questions don’t repeat at all and even if they do, they repeat in the quant section with a maximum of only one or two questions, which anyway are extremely simple to solve or you must have already solved.
Q. What is the cost/registration fee for GRE?
A. The registration fee for taking GRE is USD 190 which includes reporting your GRE scores to 4 universities of your choice.
Q. How do I register for the GRE?
A. You can register online or by phone or by mail. The detailed information about registering for the GRE can be found at www.gre.org
Q. How many times in a year is GRE exam held?
A. GRE is offered on all working days in India. The schedule can be obtained from Prometric in person, through phone, e-mail or online.
Q. How many times can I take GRE?
A. GRE can be taken unlimited number of times with a gap of a minimum of 31 calendar days between 2 tests. (It is highly advisable not to appear for GRE too many times as it may affect the applicant’s candidature). However, one can give the test only 5 times in a calendar year.
Q. If I take GRE more than once, which score will be considered by the universities?
A. The best score is taken into account by most of the universities. A few, though, consider the average.
Q. What is the validity of the GRE exam?
A. Your GRE score will be valid for 5 years after from the date the test was taken
Q. Does admission to universities depend only on GRE scores?
A. It is one of the various criteria that the admission council looks at. However, a good GRE score does improve chances of admission and financial aid.
Q. How do I pass on my score to the colleges where I want to apply to?
A. The universities only accept official scores sent directly by ETS. Scores to four colleges can be sent free of cost while taking the exam. Subsequently, for each score report sent to a college, you would have to pay USD 23.
Q. What is an ideal GRE score for engineering students?
A. Anything above 1250 (old pattern) or 310 (new pattern) is considered good but you should always aim higher. An engineering student should score above 750 (old pattern) or 160 (new pattern) in quant as this counts a lot.
Q. How important are extracurricular activities?
A. Extracurriculars are always an add-on to your profile. Any achievements at the state or national and international level are considered important. Working for social causes such as for an NGO or charity trusts on a regular basis (Please don’t start visiting NGOs when your application dates are nearing, it won’t help) helps a lot. Participating in college festivals or becoming a head of some committee does not count much.
Q. Do universities consider photocopies of the GRE scorecard? Do I have to send scores through ETS?
A. No, photocopies are not accepted. You have to send your scores only through ETS.
Q. Is GRE mandatory for applying to MS and PhD programs outside India?
A. No, not all the MS and PhD programs outside India require you to take GRE. These scores are required only by US universities and a few universities in Canada, Germany and UK.
Q. How important is the GRE score in helping secure scholarships for graduate studies?
A. The GRE score, your past academic record and your application materials play a vital part towards securing scholarships.